Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States

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This article is about the post-Civil War fraternity of loyal service members. For information on the early United States land force, see Legion of the United States.

The Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, also known by its acronym MOLLUS or simply as the Loyal Legion, is a United States patriotic order, organized April 15, 1865, by officers of the Army, Navy, or Marine Corps of the United States who "had aided in maintaining the honor, integrity, and supremacy of the national movement" during the American Civil War. They stated as their purpose the cherishing the memories and associations of the war waged in defense of the unity and indivisibility of the Republic; the strengthening of the ties of fraternal fellowship and sympathy formed by companionship in arms; the relief of the widows and children of dead companions of the order; and the advancement of the general welfare of the soldiers and sailors of the United States. The modern organization is composed of descendants of these officers (hereditary members), and others who share the ideals of the Order (associate members), who collectively are considered "Companions".

Origins[edit]

Following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865, rumors spread that the act had been part of a wider conspiracy to overthrow the legally constituted government of the United States by assassinating its chief men. Many people at first gave credence to these rumors, including three of the officers assigned to the honor guard for Lincoln's body as it was transported to Springfield, Illinois, for burial; these three men, Brevet Lt. Col. Samuel Brown Wylie Mitchell, Lt. Col. Thomas Ellwood Zell, and Captain Peter Dirck Keyser, are considered the founders of the Order. To demonstrate their loyalty, they decided to form a "Legion" modeled on the post-Revolutionary War Society of the Cincinnati. The Loyal Legion was organized largely during the same meetings that planned Lincoln's funeral (as well as during a mass meeting of Philadelphia war veterans on April 20), culminating in a meeting on May 31, 1865, in Independence Hall in Philadelphia, at which the name was chosen.

Originally, the Order was composed of three classes of members:

  • Officers who had fought in the Army, Navy, or Marine Corps of the United States in the suppression of the Rebellion, or enlisted men who had so served and were subsequently commissioned in the regular forces of the United States, constituted the "Original Companions of the First Class." The eldest direct male lineal descendants of deceased Original Companions or deceased eligible officers could be admitted as "hereditary Companions of the First Class."
  • "Companions of the Second Class" were the eldest direct male lineal descendants of living Original Companions or of living individuals who were eligible for membership in the First Class. (The use of the Rule of Primogeniture was abolished in 1905 for both the First and Second classes of membership, opening membership to all male lineal descendants, and later changes opened membership to male lineal descendants of siblings of eligible officers. As the former officers died off, the Second Class of Companions was discontinued.)
  • The Third Class comprised distinguished civilians who had rendered faithful and conspicuous service to the Union during the Civil War. No new elections to this class have been made since 1890.[1]

The Loyal Legion grew rapidly in the late 19th Century and had Companions in every Northern state, and also in many of the states that had once formed the Confederacy. The Commandery in Chief was established on October 21, 1885 with authority over the 14 state commanderies then in existence. Previously, the Pennsylvania Commandery functioned as the "first among equals" of the commanderies as it was both the oldest and largest.

At its height at the very end of the 19th Century, the Order had more than 8,000 Civil War veterans as active members, including nearly all notable general and flag officers and several presidents: Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, Philip H. Sheridan, George B. McClellan, Rutherford B. Hayes, Chester A. Arthur, Benjamin Harrison, and William McKinley. The Order's fame was great enough to inspire John Philip Sousa to compose the "Loyal Legion March" in its honor in 1890.

Today, the Order serves more as an hereditary society (descendants of eligible officers) than as a functioning military order. Among other activities, Companions organize and participate in commemorative events, provide awards to deserving ROTC cadets, and assist with preservation efforts. Of special note is that, each year, the Loyal Legion commemorates President Lincoln's birthday with a wreath-laying ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. In 2009, the MOLLUS helped coordinate an extended tribute with the help of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission to celebrate the two-hundredth anniversary of Lincoln's birthday.

There are now three basic categories of membership: Hereditary, Associate (non-hereditary), and Honorary. As many Original Companions of the Order were also members of the Grand Army of the Republic (the "GAR"), many current Companions of the Order are also members of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, the legal heir to the GAR.

Organizationally, the Loyal Legion is composed of a National Commandery-in-Chief and individual state Commanderies. There are currently 19 state Commanderies and two Provisional Commanderies. Current national officers include Commander-in-Chief Waldron Kintzing "Kinny" Post of New York, Senior Vice-Commander-in-Chief James Alan Simmons of Texas, and Junior Vice-Commander-in-Chief Eric Armando Rojo of the District of Columbia. The Immediate past Commander-in-Chief is Jeffry Christian Burden of Virginia.

The Loyal Legion is the third oldest hereditary military society in the United States after the Society of the Cincinnati and the Aztec Club of 1847.

MOLLUS Commanders-in-Chief[edit]

Prominent Companions[edit]

Note - the ranks indicated are the highest the individual held in the armed forces of the United States and not necessarily the highest rank held during the Civil War.

Presidents of the United States[edit]

Note - Presidents Andrew Johnson and James Garfield were both generals in the Union Army during the Civil War, and were thus eligible for membership in MOLLUS, but did not join the Order.

Vice Presidents[edit]

Vice President Hannibal Hamlin, who had served under President Lincoln from 1861 to 1865, was elected as a MOLLUS Companion of the 3rd Class.

Vice President Henry Wilson, who served under President Grant from 1873 until his death in 1875, was colonel of the 22nd Massachusetts Infantry and was a MOLLUS Companion of the First Class.

Vice President Charles G. Dawes, who served under President Coolidge from 1925 to 1929, became a First Class Companion in succession to his father, Brevet Brigadier General Rufus Dawes.

Honorary Companions[edit]

A limited number of individuals may be elected as Honorary Companions of MOLLUS.

United States Army[edit]

Note - The rank indicated is the highest held either in the Regular Army or the Volunteers.

United States Navy[edit]

United States Marine Corps[edit]

3rd Class Companions[edit]

From 1865 to 1890 a limited number of civilians who contributed outstanding service to the Union during the Civil War were elected into the Order as 3rd Class Companions.

Hereditary Companions[edit]

Originally, the MOLLUS had Companions of the Second Class, who were the eldest sons of Companions of the First Class (i.e., veterans of the Civil War who also held a commission at some point). A Second Class Companion became a First Class Companion upon the death of his father. This practice was discontinued in 1905, when the MOLLUS Constitution was changed to allow any direct male descendant of a Union officer to become a MOLLUS Companion. The nomenclature of First Class and Second Class Companions was discarded, leaving only the qualifiers of "Original" and "Hereditary" Companions. Later, the eligibility rules were changed to allow nephews of Union officers to become a MOLLUS Companions. Furthermore, brothers of fallen officers were allowed to join as hereditary companions if there was no surviving issue.

Military and naval officers[edit]

Public officials[edit]

Others[edit]

Associate companions[edit]

MOLLUS allows state commanderies, at their own discretion, to elect up to one third of their membership as Associate Companions.

Eligible but did not join[edit]

Several noteworthy Union officers, although eligible, did not become MOLLUS companions. These include the following -

Brigadier General and President Andrew Johnson, Major General and President James Garfield, Major General and United States Senator Francis Preston Blair, Jr., Brevet Brigadier General Kit Carson, Rear Admiral Samuel Dupont, Major General John C. Fremont, Captain Charles Vernon Gridley USN, Brevet Major General William S. Harney, Rear Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan, Major General George Meade, Major General and Governor Edwin D. Morgan, Major General Edward Ord, Brevet Brigadier General Thomas J. Rodman, Brevet Brigadier General Sylvanus Thayer, Rear Admiral John Ancrum Winslow, Major General John E. Wool.

William Waldorf Astor, 1st Viscount Astor was, and his male descendants are, eligible for hereditary membership in MOLLUS by right of his father's service in the Union Army.

All male descendants of 19th Century railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt are eligible to join MOLLUS as collateral descendants of Vanderbilt's youngest son, Captain George Washington Vanderbilt, who graduated West Point in 1860 and died on January 1, 1864 in Nice, France without issue. These descendants include the current Duke of Marlborough and CNN reporter Anderson Cooper who is also eligible for hereditary membership in MOLLUS by right of his descent from Major General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick.

Eligible Royalty[edit]

The current King of Spain, Felipe VI and his father, former King Juan Carlos, are eligible for hereditary companionship in MOLLUS, as are their male descendants, by right of their descent from Captain Philippe d'Orleans. The same is true for Henri d'Orléans, Count of Paris (b. 1933), the current Orleanist pretender to the throne of France.

King Manuel II of Portugal (1889-1932) was eligible to become a hereditary companion of MOLLUS as his mother was a daughter of Philippe d'Orleans. He had no offspring.

Prince Amedeo, Duke of Aosta (b. 1943), head of the House of Savoy and claimant to the throne of Italy, is also eligible for MOLLUS membership.

References[edit]

  1. ^ New International Encyclopedia

Further reading[edit]

  • Carroon, Robert G. and Dana B. Shoaf, (2001). Union Blue : The History of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States. Shippensburg, PA: White Mane Books. ISBN 1-57249-190-6. LCCN 00049955. 

External links[edit]